Dassault Mirage III O Fighter
The delta winged supersonic Dassault Mirage III jet fighter has been the largest success of the postwar French aviation industry. The first Mirage III A flew in May 1958 and eventually was clocked at Mach 2.2, making it the first European aircraft to exceed Mach 2 in level flight. The Mirage III was designed in the mid 1950s and first flew on November 17, 1956. As originally designed the Mirage III was able to be fitted with an auxiliary SEPR rocket engine. Although provision for the rocket engine was retained the engine was rarely fitted in practice since it required removal of the aircraft's cannon and had a reputation for setting the aircraft on fire. The space for the rocket engine was usually used for additional fuel. The Mirage IIIC, which was the first major production version, first flew in October 1960. Early Mirage IIIC aircraft had three weapons hard points, one under the fuselage and one under each wing, but another outboard pylon was quickly added to each wing. The outboard pylon was intended to carry an AIM-9 Sidewinder AAM. The Mirage III was continually upgraded and numerous versions were produced including fighter, ground attack and reconnaissance types. One of the most famous users of the Mirage III was Israel. During the 6 Day War the Mirage III accounted for 48 out of the 58 enemy aircraft shot down. The Mirage III was flown by Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, France, Gabon, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela and Zaire. The Mirage formed the basis for several other aircraft including the Atlas Cheetah, Mirage IV, Mirage 5, Mirage IIIV, Mirage 2000, IAI Kfir, IAI Nammer, Atlas Carver and IAI Nesher. The Dassault Mirage III was armed with 2 30 mm DEFA revolver cannons and could carry 8,800 lb of stores including the Matra R530 AAM, AIM-9 Sidewinder, Matra Magic R550 AAM, general purpose bombs, Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, AM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles and the French AN-52 nuclear weapon. Australia built 100 Mirage III O fighter and ground attack aircraft under license in the early 1960s. All of the fighter versions were converted to ground attack machines by 1979. The Mirage was finally withdrawn from RAAF service in 1988 and the 50 surviving examples were sold to Pakistan in 1990. This model shows a Royal Australian Air Force Mirage III O fighter in the early 1970s. Also see the Mirage III CJ, the Mirage III C and the F-21 Kfir and the Mirage III group.